Odisha Minister’s Murder Points To A Greater Malaise Having Crept In Indian Society

Odisha Minister Naba Kumar Das. Phtoo: Twitter

Syed Khalique Ahmed

NEW DELHI—Odisha Health and Family Welfare Minister Naba Kisore Das was shot dead on January 29 by none other than a police sub-inspector who was on traffic management duty during the visit of the minister in Brajrajnagar town of the state to inaugurate a health-related project. The accused cop has been arrested and investigations are on to dig out the reasons for the ghastly murder.

The family of the accused has claimed that the accused cop was under mental depression and he was under medical treatment by a psychiatrist. Though mental depression is not rare in police and para-military forces, the misuse of a weapon by a police officer to kill a minister on official duty points towards a greater malaise that seems to have crept into our society for quite some time and also into the agencies responsible for maintenance of law and order.

The incident happened a day before the Shaheed Divas (January 30), the death anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi who was shot dead by Nathuram Godse being idolized by a section of the Hindutva brigade.

The Hindutva votaries say that the principal reason for Gandhi’s assassination was that he was an obstruction to the goal of a Hindu Rashtra, in which non-Hindus will be treated as second-class citizens having fewer rights.

Followers of Godse’s ideology don’t call Gandhi’s killing an assassination that involves the murder of a public figure for some political reasons. They call it “vadh” which is a form of punishment in the ancient Hindu culture given to a sinner. And this form of punishment is given when there is no other way to change the person.

Because of this reason, Godse’s ideological supporters glorify the act which was the first incident of terrorism in Independent India, and Nathuram Godse, in the words of author and Hindu activist Rahul Easwar, was a terrorist. Rahul Easwar is an alumnus of the London School of Economics and Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad (IIMA).

In his tribute to the Father of the Nation, then Prime Minister Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru commented that Gandhi’s assassination was the result of “poison spread in the country during the past years and months”, and “this poison had an effect on people’s minds”.

The forces that spread the poison during the lifetime of Gandhi and Nehru, and that became the reason for Gandhi’s assassination, or his “vadh” in the words of a group of Hindutva brigade, have continued to spread the communal poison with much vigour and speed. These forces have also better organized themselves since then and made entry into every institution of the state and central governments. For the last one decade, minorities, particularly Muslims, face mob lynching on the pretext of cow protection, bulldozing of their houses, and attacks on their religious places like mosques and madrasas (Muslim religious seminaries) by anti-social elements admiringly called vigilantes, with state agencies, either overlooking it or being complicit in it. Instead of taking action against the accused involved in the killing of Muslims, police have many times booked cases against the victims themselves and allowed the culprits to go scot-free. The cold-blooded murder of Waris by Bajrang Dal activists in Haryana’s Mewat is the latest example. This is happening because those fed with communal poison have acquired important positions in state administration and also the body politic of the country.

Since there has been no or little action against the killings of Muslims and Christians, this has emboldened the anti-socials working in the garb of vigilantes to take to violence against anyone who comes in their way. No one knows if the Odisha police official entertained some kind of personal grudge against the minister which became the reason for killing the minister. But one thing that can be inferred is that this is perhaps the result of an overall environment of violence encouraged, deliberately or undeliberately, that inspired the police official to shoot down the minister either due to personal grudge or some other reason.  

The brutal killing of the Odisha minister suggests that we immediately need to curb the culture of violence whether it is against minorities, Dalits, or Adivasis. For quite some time, the culture of violence and politics of hate are being used by some political groups to promote their political prospects. Weaker sections, minorities, Dalits, and Adviasis have become victims of the dirty political game of those parties that have done no good work to show to the people to claim their votes. That is why they are using communally divisive and poisonous language to win political support but that seems to be backfiring now. And Odisha minister’s murder is the latest example. Violence always begets violence. It does not bring peace or development.

At this juncture, we must take a lesson from India’s first Prime Minister Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru. After the assassination of Mahatma Gandhi, he did not talk of taking revenge on the forces who had spread poison for years together and that became the reason for the murder of the Father of the Nation. Pandit Nehru said: “We must face this poison, we must root out this poison and we must face all the perils that encompass us, and face them not madly or badly, but rather in the way our beloved teacher taught us to face them.”

Taking cue from Pandit Nehru, let’s all pledge to root out the communal poison from the body politic of the country and work to promote and strengthen peace and communal harmony in society.


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